The Libertarian long-term effort to end state liquor monopolies was once a coalition issue with just the left, but many on the left became discouraged and the libs began work with the right…now the right has so warmed up on the idea it being called a conservative issue with the left as johnny-come-latelies.
This cultural perception switch often happens now–witness the recent conservative endorsement of limited legalization of gambling–meanwhile resistance by left-right extremists allied to commercial monopoly and bureaucratic special interests continues, say Libs working on the issue.
Liquor privatization usually a GOP issue
HARRISBURG – An effort to jump-start legislation in the House to sell the state-owned network of liquor stores to private owners didn’t go as planned last week.
House lawmakers spent several hours Monday night debating privatization legislation pushed by Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Pittsburgh. The measure would authorize the sale of the state stores and issuance of 1,600 retail liquor licenses with owners of beer distributorships getting the first opportunity to buy a license.
But a vote didn’t materialize that night or during the next two days when the House was in session. Lawmakers faced a daunting 300 amendments to wade through, but by midweek it was clear there was a bigger problem at hand. The votes weren’t there to pass the bill in Turzai’s own Republican caucus.
The obvious difficulty in lining up the votes to pass liquor privatization leaves a great deal of uncertainty surrounding one of the hot-button issues that got a new lease on life after Republicans won the governorship and control of both legislative chambers in the 2010 elections.
This is the third time in 30 years that a major push has been made to get rid of the state liquor stores. It coincides with the third time in this same period that Republicans have enjoyed total control of the statehouse.
Privatization has long been a GOP issue. But the only time during this period that the future of the Liquor Control Board was actually voted upon came when the late Democratic Gov. Robert P. Casey was in office.
At the time, a state “sunset” law was on the books that required lawmakers to periodically vote on extending the lifespan of state agencies. When the LCB’s turn for sunset review came up, Casey favored keeping the state stores but agreed to transfer responsibility for enforcing the liquor code from the LCB to the state police.
The interesting thing about the current situation is that the Republicans enjoy larger majorities in both the House and Senate this session than they did in the two previous episodes of total GOP control in 1981-1982 and 1995-2002.
Republicans currently control the House, 110-91, with two vacancies and the Senate, 29-20, with one vacancy.
In 1982 when former GOP Gov. Dick Thornburgh launched the first effort to privatize liquor sales, his party more narrowly controlled the Senate, 26-23, with one vacancy and the House, 101-98, with four vacancies.
In 1997-98 when former GOP Gov. Tom Ridge made the second effort, his party controlled the Senate, 29-20, with one vacancy and the House, 104-99.
Even with a 19-vote GOP majority in the House, liquor privatization still requires heavy lifting.
The privatization issue carries its own dynamics when it comes to rounding up votes from lawmakers.
Thornburgh actively stumped across the state for it and Ridge put out his own privatization plan. GOP Gov. Tom Corbett has operated more behind the scenes, but the issue is a familiar one by now to Pennsylvanians.
Anyone tackling the liquor issue must wade through a thicket of interests: the several thousand unionized liquor store employees, the beer distributors, the tavern and bar owners and more recently, the supermarkets that sell beer in enclosed areas…